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Tuesday, 22 November 2011
Page: 13369

Mr COULTON (ParkesThe Nationals Chief Whip) (21:01): I too rise tonight to speak on the minerals resource rent tax bills. If I might start with an observation, tonight we are not hearing from members of the government.

Mr Ripoll interjecting

Mr COULTON: This is my 10c worth. Are they not sufficiently encouraged by the merit of this tax to be in here tonight? I understand, as we speak, the Prime Minister is in strong negotiations with the Greens because the deal has not been done. Is this country being run by deals done on the side, by people that sit behind me? Are the people over there that impotent that they sit there, let deals be done by minority groups and then sit on their hands and not contribute to the debate? I find it strange that the members of the government do not have enough conviction to stand up and support something that is of such importance to the future of this country.

This is an ill-conceived and poorly constituted tax. This is a tax that has been put together in conjunction with the three large mining companies with very little consultation behind closed doors. It is divisive, complex, unfair, fiscally irresponsible, distorting and a lost opportunity. This tax is once again another grab of the resources from regional Australia to be taken and placed elsewhere. I believe that mining companies should contribute more, but I believe they should contribute more to the communities where the mining takes place. We have got the Minister for Regional Australia, Regional Development and Local Government in the chamber tonight and he has stated that future payments under the RDA are dependent on the passing of this tax.

Mr Crean: That is true.

Mr COULTON: I am glad you confirm that, Minister, because I am just wondering where regional Australia is. The last round seemed to have forgotten anything west of the sandstone curtain. I understand that the good people in the art gallery in Newcastle see themselves as regional Australia, but we are not seeing very much west of the range. We are not seeing anything out where this wealth is being produced. We have seen what the policies of this government are doing to regional Australia. Go to the town of Kandos. Last year, they had a cement plant. This year they have got nothing. It was closed down because of the carbon tax. That is the policy of this government. In Cobar, the cement that they use in the copper mine now comes from Asia instead of Kandos. That is what this government is doing. This government is bringing in this tax to fill in its bottom line. It is paying for the wastefulness and the squandering of money that we have seen over the last four years.

The missed opportunity is the need to see real infrastructure and real spending in regional Australia. We need to see real growth that will set regional Australia up beyond the mining boom, that will bring value adding to agricultural produce and that will use some of the energy sources being mined in regional Australia closer to home rather than placing them on ships and sending them overseas. This tax will not do that. This tax will take once again from regional Australia where the wealth is produced and distribute it elsewhere. As with the carbon tax, this government is about wealth redistribution: taking it from those that are productive and placing it elsewhere. Regional Australia will not wear this.

We are seeing a deal that was done by the member for New England to get this tax through. It is with great frustration that the member for New England would pass a tax that is as poorly constituted as this one to get a local outcome. While I have sympathy with the intentions of the member for New England, I believe that he has been dudded. I believe he has been sold short. I believe that if anyone else from this side of the chamber went back to the people of the north-west with the deal that the member for New England had done they would be severely ridiculed. The member for New England has basically got another committee and no teeth.

The real issue with strengthening up the legislation we have is with the state governments. The government in New South Wales is working through the process, as is the government in Queensland, I believe, to get this under control. What we have now is a committee and potentially another level of bureaucracy. In the past the farming community have not been served well by environmentalists, and I have great concern that the added focus that this will put on the extraction industries will have long-term detrimental effects on the farmers in my electorate.

The government says that the Prime Minister is a great negotiator. Being in government, and being the Prime Minister, is about leadership. It is about showing direction. It is not about doing grubby deals. As we speak, negotiations are going on with the Greens. What this country is lacking at the moment is a sense of direction. What this country is lacking is confidence. Every time one of these harebrained, half-baked pieces of legislation comes through this place, the country loses confidence.

What makes Australia grow is when individuals have confidence and belief that they are being led well enough that they can invest and grow their own businesses, undertake employment, undertake education and improve themselves and this country. From speaking to people in my electorate, I know that at the moment they are feeling that they are rudderless. They feel that they are not being led, that the country is being run by side deals and dodgy negotiations—not true leadership. If you want to see an example of an ill-conceived piece of legislation, this is it.

The people that I represent believe that the mining companies should contribute more to the communities where this is coming from. But the government has been duped by the three big miners and an opportunity has gone begging.

Unfortunately, this great House is no longer a place of debate where ideas are exchanged and where legislation is formulated. This place has become a rubber stamp for grubby backroom deals.